Robots will help people in their household chores, assist surgeons in operating rooms and deal with extreme situations ranging from natural disasters to armed warfare. In a not-so-distant future humans will live and work alongside machines built in their own image and feature increasingly sophisticated cognitive and emotional skills. Roberto Cingolani, a chief researcher at one of the world’s most advanced institutes in the field of robotics, and his colleague Giorgio Metta describe the scientific and technological developments that have led to the construction of machines that are quite similar to humans: a revolutionary combination of electronics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, engineering, biomechanics and neuroscience. But does a machine that is capable of deciding, choosing and thinking also have responsibilities towards humanity? And do we need to ponder the issue of our responsibilities towards them?
Roberto Cingolani, a physicist, has been the scientific manager of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa since 2005. He has also been a staff member of the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo, an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
Giorgio Metta, an engineer, directs the iCub Facility at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa, where he leads the development of the iCub humanoid robot, and teaches Cognitive Robotics at the University of Plymouth (UK). He has worked at the MIT in Boston, directed many European research projects and been consulted as a robotics expert in European Commission programmes.